The Premodern Middle East and Postmodern West Don’t Mix, Mr. President
Globalization certainly did not bring the premodern world of the Middle East closer together with the postmodern West — despite Barack Obama’s 2007 narcissistic vows that his own intellect and background could bridge such a gap. If anything, the more we know about each other, the more we sense we are back to Lepanto and the siege of Vienna. Since the 9/11 anniversary attacks, the Obama administration has seemed bewildered, petulant, and more or less shocked in Casablanca-style fashion about the hatred shown the United States — whether overt among the Arab Street, or implicit among Arab governments’ wink-and-nod inability to protect U.S. embassies. It apparently forgot some basic rules about how to deal with radical Islam, and instead regressed back to the old familiar appeasement that led to 9/11/2001.
Mr. President, do not obsess over the pretext of the day. Terry Jones is only as crude as Andres Serrano and his Piss Christ, which I don’t recall warranted a personal call from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the artist to cool it, much less a federal effort to detain a Coptic filmmaker. Sometimes Muslims will rage at a Rushdie novel, sometimes at a papal reference to a Byzantine letter, and at other times at a supposedly flushed or torched Koran. Or maybe a grainy amateurish video will be set them off to kill a nun, blow up a priest, burn down an embassy, or assassinate a Western ambassador. There are three-hundred-million-plus free-thinking Americans, and thus at least that many possible “slights” — if you choose to go down that road of blaming free expression rather than the primeval mind that objects to it.
The opportunities for Muslims in the Middle East to be outraged at the West in general and the U.S. in particular are legion.